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Eight films to watch before the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off

So forgive me while we go all buzzfeed on you with a good old-fashioned “listicle”. 

Italian fans wearing 3D glasses watching their team in action in the 2010 World Cup.

Italian fans in a cinema wearing 3D glasses watching their team in action in the 2010 World Cup.

As you may know tonight sees the start of the 20th FIFA World Cup which is taking place in Brazil for the next month.

This half of the team travelled to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and wrote about it on in the days before Spooool’s existence. Due to the lack of lotto win to fly me to Brazil I figured what better way to mark the start of next edition of the football festival than by marrying the two loves of football and cinema into a post!

Featured here are eight films that we guarantee will get you in the mood for the 64 games coming to a big or small screen near you. If you can’t make it to a pub or the missus is watching Coronation Street for the next month there’s don’t forget to fire up your broadcaster’s live streaming service for legal and shiny HD streams (RTE, BBC, ITV).


City of God (Cidade de Deus)

city of god

Cinema has been treated to a number of brilliant depictions of the social injustice that exists in Brazil but 2002’s City of God is still the one that you could actually bring up in the pub and have people know what you’re talking about.

The film skips across different timelines through the 1960s and 70s as it tells the story of how crime tore apart the impoverished population of Rio De Janeiro’s favelas. It made $30million at the international box office but went on to have phenomenal success on DVD. No other film managed to bring the tougher size of Brazilian life into so many people’s lives.

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Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle


Zinedine Zidane is responsible for one of the greatest World Cup moments of all time. To put it into perspective you have to rewind to July 9th 2006. Zidane was captaining a resurgent French team who had defied the critics to find their way into the final where they were facing an Italian side led by Fabio Cannavaro. Both teams had won World Cups before and while neither team has set the tournament alight with attacking carefree football, they’d earned the respect of other nations by just doing enough to make it to the final.

Assisted by Zidane’s amazingly confident penalty, the teams were level at the 90 minute mark and so they started into a half hour of extra-time. Over the years reports have varied but Italian hard-man Marco Materazzi said something rather crude to Zidane about his sister. Never one to just take an insult lying down, the Frenchman charged at Matarazzi head-first knocking him to the ground. Italy went on to win the final.

I prefer the whore that is your sister…

I was watching the game on a big screen with a group of friends in the camp-site of the Oxegen music festival in Punchestown. Never before have I seen a group of people so gobsmacked, shocked and amused – all at the same time. One of the greatest players of our generation had just signed off with… that….

In 2005, Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno filmed the great man playing a game for Real Madrid for a feature film. Lots of cameras trained firmly on Zidane and soundtracked by the Scottish post-rock group Mogwai. It’s like arthouse cinema and football getting married.

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Looking for Eric

looking for eric

While there are no World Cup links in Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, it manages to showcase the existence of a football fan and the heroes he creates better than any other film I’ve ever seen before.

Cantona never made it to a World Cup (France were surprising non-qualifiers in 1994) but this film is all about his relationship with fans at Manchester United. Loach tells the story of Eric Bishop, a United fan who idolises Eric Cantona. Life ain’t going so good for our Eric and so his beloved number seven Monsieur Cantona appears to him in a series of visions offering him guidance. The film had no right to be as good as it turned out and who knew Loach was capable of having fun and working with such a kooky plot.

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Elite SquadElite Squad: The Enemy Within

elite squad

Two films here.

This World Cup has been marred by controversy since it was announced as taking place in Brazil in 2006. They’ve effectively known they were holding it since 2004 and yet there are still a stunning range of statistics about how badly the authorities have handled the preparations. At this stage they’ve finally gotten all the stadiums finished but there’s a genuine sense of disappointment and outrage at the lack of a genuine public legacy from the tournament. Most of the planned public infrastructure, transport upgrades and community projects have all been shelved, and all due to the incompetence and corruption that permeates through so much of the country.

In 2007 and 2010, a set of films from director José Padilha (he of recent Robocop fame) followed up the international success of City of God by showing just how broken the politics and law-makers of Brazil. The films are crime/action films about the actions of Rio’s military police but their message runs a lot deeper, well worth checking out.

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Escape to Victory

escape to victory

Featuring World Cup winners, Hollywood stars and some unskilled extras, all banding together to play the Nazis in order to get out of a prisoner of war camp. 1981’s Escape to Victory is truly ridiculous. And it’s from legendary director John Huston which makes it all the more baffling.

Ossie Ardiles recently described the rag-tag gang as the greatest ever team he’s played in. His tongue was firmly in his cheek as the other two World Cup winners, Pele and Bobby Moore were both well past their best at that stage leaving Ardiles to do all of the running and hard work.

Even still though having Rocky himself, Mr Sylvester Stallone in goals isn’t too bad right?

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Next Goal Wins

next goal wins

Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s 2014 documentary follows the fortunes of one of the world’s worst football teams – American Samoa. They were best known for a thumping 31-0 defeat to Australia but were now setting their sights on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Spoiler: Despite the best efforts of their hardman Dutch coach Thomas Rongen, they didn’t make it.

The film is also notable for showcasing the rather special character of Jaiyah Saelua, a transgender defender (in the footballing sense of the world). She is  a member of Polynesia’s fa’afafine or “third gender” and the films ends up being as much about inclusivity in sports as it does the World Cup quest.

The film was released in selected cinemas in Ireland and the UK last month.

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The Two Escobars

Two Escobars

The first World Cup that I truly remembering “living” was USA ’94. I was a five-year-0ld during Italia ’90 and it was more something that seemed to be ongoing for ever, preventing my parents from pushing me on the swings out the back.

USA ’94 was Ireland’s second appearance in the World Cup and gave us Ray Houghton’s goal, Stan’s baseball cap, Drogheda’s golden boy Gary Kelly, John Aldridge’s bollicking and the Phelan/Bonner fiasco which helped Holland through to the quarter-finals at our expense. However it wasn’t Ireland’s antics which stuck with me, moreso the fate of Colombia’s defender Andrés Escobar who scored an own-goal against the USA which meant Colombia didn’t make it out of the group and a tonne of gang bosses lost a lot of money in gambling debts.

The debate raged over whether football had gone too far and whether the own-goal was really the reason he was killed. Either way a man had been murdered because he was a footballer who did something wrong on the field of play. This was pretty high-concept stuff for a nine-year-old to grasp.

The Guardian recently documented the Escobar incident in a brilliant look back at one of the game’s most shocking moments, but you should also watch the 2010 ESPN 30 for 30 film Two Escobars for the full story of the rather incredible links between Andrés Escobar and the drug boss Pablo Escobar. Truth is stranger than fiction.

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and one to avoid…

United Passions aka “The FIFA Movie”

Fifa movie - united passionsSeriously there’s nothing positive I can say about this film which has yet to see the light.

If you know anything about the inner workings of FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter, the idea of him spending €24m to make a film about how awesome FIFA is makes perfect sense.

The film stars Tim Roth (as Blatter), Gérard Depardieu and Sam Neill and will hopefully never see the light of day.

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